All aboard the music express!
The streets were transformed into a music hall on Saturday, when Hong Kong Tramways celebrated its 110th anniversary with "Music on the Trams". Co-organised by Alliance Française de Hong Kong, the festivities were inspired by World Music Day, a popular festival in France.
Emmanuel Vivant, managing director of Hong Kong Tramways, said he wanted to pull the community into this event, which was free and open to the public. "We'd like to bring a few smiles to the people we meet in the streets," Vivant said. "At the same time, we are trying to reveal some local artists."
If there was one type of musicians showcased in the event, it had to be the indie artists. Organisers showcased them singing on the tram as it ding-ding-dinged its way across Hong Kong Island.
At 2.30pm sharp, the tram took off from the Causeway Bay terminus towards Sheung Wan. For singer-songwriter Jing Wong, one of the musicians aboard, the event was a rare opportunity. "I can give sudden 'music attacks' to pedestrians as the tram goes by," he says. "I think this is the best platform for playing music - one that can travel across the city and reach out to the people, instead of just hiding in a pub."
Local indie band New Youth Barbershop also performed. They've been making music together since September. The group said they enjoyed the extra exposure from the event, as they usually handle their own promotion. "With social networking platforms like YouTube and Facebook, we are able to share our music easily," band member Showroom Chan Lit-sat says.
Wong agreed, saying there's an abundance of platforms for reaching out to fans. But even with the new communication tools, all musicians face challenges, whether you're trying to be mainstream or indie.
"For mainstream music, you have to follow certain rules [to fit the market requirements]," Wong said. But indie music, with lyrics about the daily lives of Hong Kong people, appeals to locals more, as they feel more connected to both the theme of the music and the musicians themselves.
Wong believes the outspoken nature of indie musicians also makes them more influential. "A lot of people who are fed up with mainstream pop singers feel closer to 'real musicians' who write their own songs, play their own songs and say whatever they like," he said.
One tram rider, Dennis Man Wing-leung, finds indie music simple and relaxing. "They sing about small events, unlike mainstream songs which are mostly about love or very tragic events," he said.
New Youth Barbershop's music is inspired by their daily lives in Hong Kong, with songs featuring a range of anecdotes from work to sunsets. Wong's music, meanwhile, is inspired by such topics as novels and poetry - all of which he personally enjoys.
"Their songs are about themselves and hence very 'them'," said Heidie Liu Sin-Ling, a passenger who said indie music was her favourite genre. "What's more, they are ordinary Hong Kong people, so their songs truly reflect Hongkongers' emotions."
Event organiser Wendy Chan Yun-yee, who said she's a fan of all kinds of musicians, agreed the event was a great opportunity to promote indie music.
"Hong Kong's musicians are very diverse," she said. "We want people to know more about indie music and say: 'Whoa, Hong Kong really has a lot of good musicians!'"